We’ve all seen the signs on the back of 18-wheeler tractor-trailers: “This truck makes wide turns.”
And many of us well know the fear that creeps up our spines when one of those enormous vehicles, which can be 73 feet long from nose to tail, pulls up alongside our puny automobiles and signals that a turn is coming. With an articulation where the trailer’s kingpin connects to the tractor’s fifth wheel, the back tires of the vehicle don’t follow the path of the front wheels on a turn. Instead, the trailer’s rear set and the back of the vehicle are dragged into the turn and create a shallower arc.
As a result, when it’s a tight corner a driver needs to navigate, the back half of the trailer can become a wrecking ball for anything it drifts into. That’s why it’s not uncommon for motorists and pedestrians to watch those back tires hop the sidewalk, destroying whatever happens to be in their way.
Sometimes the best innovations aren’t about finding the most technologically advanced solutions, but merely looking at the problem differently.
In arid regions throughout the world, the problem is simple: inadequate ground and surface water supplies force people to undergo hardship even where sufficient rain falls. A group called PITCHAfrica has part of the solution.
Imagine a brave new world where an affordable family electric vehicle (EV) could cover the distance between New York City and Washington, D.C., on a single battery charge. It remains a fantasy, but perhaps not for long. Scientists at GE Global Research and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are developing a new kind of water-based “flow” battery for EVs that could achieve this driving range and go beyond it.
Grigorii Soloveichik, who leads the project at GRC and serves as the director of the GE-led and Department of Energy-funded Energy Frontier Research Center, says that the batteries could be 75 percent cheaper than those available on the market today and might also multiply the current EV driving range. “The DOE wants a battery that can power a car for 240 miles,” he says. “We think we can exceed that goal.”